Maryland’s same-sex couples will soon be allowed to marry, but they won’t be allowed to file joint income-tax returns — making Maryland the first state to legalize gay marriage without giving extra tax privileges to the couples.
The state comptroller's office says it plans to continue requiring same-sex couples to file separate state-level income-tax returns as long as federal law requires separate federal returns, even though all other states recognizing same-sex marriage that collect income tax allow the couples to file jointly.
Maryland officials say they have no immediate plans to change the state’s policy, even though they acknowledge that separate returns have added to paperwork for same-sex couples and sometimes force them to pay higher taxes.
“Unless federal law changes, we can’t change anything,” said Kim Frum, spokeswoman for Maryland Comptroller Peter V.R. Franchot, a Democrat. “We are aware of what other states do, but that’s not how we do things.”
Ms. Frum said the state’s income-tax rules are bound by federal regulations because the state tax is calculated using adjusted federal gross income as a starting point.
One such regulation is the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which prohibits gay couples from filing joint federal returns and, according to the comptroller, also bars them from doing so at the state level.
The U.S. Supreme Court will decide next year whether to uphold or overturn DOMA, which was passed in 1996 but recently has been struck down as unconstitutional in some lower courts.
Ms. Frum said a change or rejection of the federal law is the only way that Maryland could enact legislation allowing gay couples to file jointly, although the state attorney general's office says it is looking into the issue.
Joint filing can reduce or increase a couple’s tax liability, depending on such factors as total household income and income disparity between spouses, according to the comptroller's office.
“Instead of two tax returns, we have to do four tax returns,” she said. “The way the brackets work, we end up paying more taxes as individuals.”
Since Maryland does not allow same-sex joint filing, its tax policy runs counter to those in Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New York, Vermont and the District — all of which allow gay marriage and require all married couples to either file jointly on state and local tax returns, or declare themselves married but filing separately.
Couples in those states must still file separate federal returns, but they also fill out a second hypothetical federal return as a couple. The federal adjusted gross income on this joint return is used as the starting point for their joint state return.
“They’re married, so we make them file as married,” said Sarah Kaufman, spokeswoman for Connecticut’s Department of Revenue. “We’re basically reading the law to mean that same-sex couples have the exact same rights as heterosexual couples.”
Maryland’s same-sex marriage law goes into effect on Jan. 2, meaning that it won’t have tax implications for newly married couples until residents file their 2013 taxes in early 2014. Maryland has recognized same-sex marriages from other places since 2010.View Entire Story
© Copyright 2013 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
David Hill joined The Washington Times in February 2011 as a Maryland political reporter. He can be reached at email@example.com.
'Your papers, please' must never be heard in America
Independent voices from the TWT Communities
When you need to know who is making business, and what business is being made, you need the Business Browser.
How does our 50th state view D.C. politics?
A collection of reader guest articles, thoughts and opinions by Communities writers and breaking news and information.
Reflections on raising families in a holistic way -- with a focus on nutrition and alternative health.
Benghazi: The anatomy of a scandal
Vietnam Memorial adds four names
Cinco de Mayo on the Mall